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Motion Design vs. Animation: What’s the difference?

Firstly Motion Design or Graphics…why is there a difference there? They’re broadly the same, but for the purposes of this article we’ll refer to Motion Design. In my eyes it’s the more modern term, and closer aligned to how I see the work that we do.

Graphic Design

Now, Motion Design vs Animation: are they really that different? Animated content of any form can be considered “animation”, but motion design is in a sub-section of its own. Motion Design, as the name suggests, has its roots in graphic design, as this article so well explains.

Motion Graphics, as the name suggests, has its roots in graphic design. Imagine text and images coming to life. When a TV advert ends and the logo whizzes into the centre of the screen, we’re watching some classic motion graphics. Animation, on the other hand, covers a much broader spectrum of content. Classically we think of cartoons and animated films, but the spectrum is wider than that. In all honesty, anything can be animated.

Motion Design

A Motion Design or Motion Graphics piece that doesn’t carry some narrative, no matter how subtle, will  lose its audience. That said, my definition of Motion Design work is something that is design lead, not necessarily story lead. You can weave a narrative into it, but it’s not the key driver. If you’re wondering what kind of work a Motion Design studio does, then this article on Creative Boom nicely points out the different types of work you would class as Motion Design.


Naturally with the nature of our work we cross over from Motion Design into Animation. When we do I’d say there is more drive from the story; the narrative is the key driver. If you look at the Seasons Greetings project we did last year for Fox you can see that it is the story that is king. Alternatively the software launch we did for Street was very much driven by the design. We worked on frames in illustrator first to get the layout right, then made these designs move.

Ask any animator or motion designer and they would most likely have a different answer. The fact they cross over is what keeps the job exciting, and keeps us on our toes.